It seems that the digital advertising ecosystem of today is like a never-ending roller coaster; the privacy landscape is changing, the way we sell and buy is changing and so are the standards that we have to adhere to. Change is good - it forces us to rethink old practices and build something new. Analytics & Data is one such practice, where we are incentivised by the ecosystem giants to update our strategies for the future.
The recent news around Google’s antitrust lawsuits, made public in the unredacted documents, has raised a number of concerning issues. It seems that the dominant player in the digital advertising industry has abused their market position in multiple ways, harming publishers and Google’s competitors considerably. Obviously Google didn’t want this to become public.
Google's actions have led to the serious allegations
Google’s DSP, DV360, is the largest player in the market. This success can be attributed to many things, however one key decision back in 2015 stands out. Google decided that Youtube inventory remained exclusive to Google, locking out the other platforms. As Youtube is an important component in running video campaigns, buyers naturally gravitated towards Google. Similarly, the lawsuit claims that Google’s own buy side platform received advantages in terms of speed and available data on Google’s AdX compared to the competition, leading to them winning the majority of auctions, and thereby further reinforcing their position.
In 2017 Facebook was a proponent of header bidding. However, based on the lawsuit documents, it seems that Google and Facebook struck a deal where Facebook would stop supporting header bidding. Google, in exchange, would give them preferential treatment in Open Bidding, by guaranteeing FB win rates in the auctions and helping them with identifying users in cookieless environments.
These are all serious allegations. If they are proven to be true then some action needs to be taken against Google’s grave anti-competitive behaviour that has harmed pretty much every other actor in the market.
How can publishers succeed without a strong reliance on a single source of revenue?
The conversation around the industry giants has really taken off, though as we know, they are only a component of the complex ecosystem of digital advertising sales. How do publishers ensure that they are able to succeed without heavy reliance on one revenue source? We collected few recommendations for consideration:
- By utilizing prebid, publishers have the possibility to bring in more competing demand from other sources than just Google. Relying fully on Google and utilizing Open Bidding within their platform does not seem like a safe and futureproof choice given these recent news.
- Focus on developing server-side capabilities. Prebid server performance and ID-matching via the server are improving all the time and for publishers who want to ensure quick load times this is a great option to work with.
- Streamline your sales operation. For publishers this means adopting a curious mindset and being willing to optimise your sales stack, for example, continually renegotiating SSP’s used. New technologies, which may be able to help increase your ad sales, are frequently released onto the market, and old ones may see gains in performance or indeed regress. This presents a challenge for the tech setup. It is important to make sure that you work with solutions which enable agile testing, rapid set-up changes and optimisation.
- It is crucial to avoid a situation where a sell-side vendor has power over others. We don’t believe that competition can be fair if one of the active sales channels is orchestrating it. In practice this means running and optimisation of a prebid set-up should be in the hands of an independent party, someone who can truly focus on the publisher's total revenue.
- We all should also fight for transparency on all fronts. This applies to solutions used in digital sales, but also for general revenue transparency inside organisations. We have seen that comprehensive, easy to understand (and shareable) revenue data help both tech- and sales teams to perform better. To give a couple concrete examples, real time monitoring of your sales will allow you to notice possible errors immediately and save a lot of money. Similarly, if your sales team is easily able to spot an advertiser increasing investments in Open RTB, they can start promoting better PMP opportunities and increase sales.
In conclusion - Empower sales and yield teams
The challenge today is that digital ad sales is too technical and developers have been struggling to keep up with fulfilling the business’ needs. We need to empower sales and yield optimization teams with solutions that enable revenue optimization in an agile way, without developers updating code every time we wan’t to test new tricks.
So, maybe instead of “power back to the publishers” we can elaborate, and say that it’s time to empower the publishers' sales and yield teams.